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Why SEO That Used to Work Fails How shifts in the search landscape, marketing channels, & user behavior mean what used to work in SEO, doesn’t anymore.

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Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz | @randfish | rand@moz.com Why SEO That Used to Work Fails How shifts in the search landscape, marketing channels, & user behavior mean what used to work in SEO, doesn’t anymore.


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bit.ly/whyseofails Get the presentation:


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#1 Tactical SEO fails. Strategic SEO works.


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SEO as a Tactic: Example: Rand’s new site offering dating advice to Jewish guys I went on dates with four different people from 1995-2001 (then I met Geraldine). I must be qualified!


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I want to rank for these keywords. SEO as a Tactic: Controlling your nebbishy nature How to say no to Mom’s setup attempts What is this ‘sports’ thing? How schlubby is too schlubby? Keywords for Menschify.com


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I want to grow our search traffic by 33% this year. SEO as a Tactic:


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Why Doesn’t This Work? What Changed?


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The Ranking Algo Used to Feel Like This: Keyword Matching Domain Authority Link Signals QDF Ranking + + + = Great. Just do that stuff on the pages I told you to rank.


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Now It Feels More Like This: Keyword Matching Domain Authority Link Signals QDF (& QDD) Ranking + + + + Uhhh…OK. So just do all that now, right? Intent Matching Topical Authority Usage Signals User Experience + + + = HTTPS, Mobile, +


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We Used to Run Marketing Channels as Distinct, Separate Silos Organic Search Social Media Paid Search Email Brand Marketing Offline & WoM Onpage Channels Quality Score List Size & Quality Sentiment Virality Offpage Following Spend Open & Click Rate Reach Distri-bution


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Each Channel Contributed Individually to the Whole 3X Organic Search Social Media Paid Search + + =


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Then, Some Marketers Realized the Benefits of Channel Integration 6X = Organic Search Social Media Paid Search


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This Integration Benefits from Two Trends Search Social Offline Email Content WoM #1: More web users consuming more of these in tandem: #2: Many of these channels directly & indirectly influencing each other:


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So What Does Strategic SEO Look Like?


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SEO As a Strategy: Audience Amplification Funnel We need to answer questions about each of these to form a coherent SEO strategy


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Who is my target customer? And who will eventually become a target customer? Who/what influences my target customers? Audience What channels can I use to reach these three audiences?


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Funnel Which parts of our marketing funnel are right for SEO? What problems, questions, or topics do people have that align w/ our goals?


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How will we earn the visibility signals necessary to compete? Amplification Why will those who see our work amplify us rather than our competition?


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SEO As a Strategy: Audience Amplification Funnel Once you nail these, the tactical to-do list is much easier to create (and much more effective)


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#2 Building a well-SEO’d site may be less valuable than building a powerful brand.


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2011: I think that’s the only one I’ve heard of…


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2015: Hmm… Pretty sure that’s 5 of the 7 largest, best-known auto insurers in the US?


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2011: I know Sunset, but none of these others.


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2015: This is the only brand on page one I don’t know.


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Why? What Changed?


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#1: Brands Got Serious About Investing in SEO In years past, big brands didn’t have in-house SEO teams. Today, it’s a standard.


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#2: Brands Benefitted from Shifts in Google’s Algo More Links = Higher Rankings Better Links = Higher Rankings Brand familiarity & UX barely influence SEO Usage signals mean brand & UX are powerful influencers Naive KW matching rewards KW-centric SEO Topic & intent-matching reward more holistic content 2015: 2011:


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These brand info drop-downs suggest to me Google’s deeply interested in highlighting brands in their SERPs.


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In many results, there’s an eerie correlation between high rankings and sites that have the brand drop-down.


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Building a well-known brand may soon be a prerequisite for ranking in Google.


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#3 Choosing the right keywords is much more complex than in the past.


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Old Keyword Prioritization Methodology Term/Phrase Est. Volume Biz Value What’s a Mensch What to wear on a first date Sarmassophobia Kosher date ideas 100/month 1,000/month 20/month 30/month Low Medium Medium High Pri 2 1 5 3 Fear of dating 50/month Medium 4


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Why doesn’t this work anymore? What changed?


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Even ranking #1 probably won’t get the site many visits.


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This SERP has a bias to fresh content and an image block that probably gets a lot of the traffic


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It probably makes no sense to target these queries separately


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Opportunity seems higher and competition lower than the others keywords…


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What Should Keyword Evaluation Look Like in 2015?


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New Keyword Prioritization Methodology KW Volume Value What’s a Mensch What to wear on a first date Sarmassophobia Kosher date ideas 100/mth 1,000/mth 20/mth 30/mth Medium Low High High Pri 4 3 1 2 Fear of dating 50/mth High 1 Oppty Features Diff 54% 47% 17% 50% 41% Low Medium High High High KG Images None Forum Sitelinks None


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54% 47% 17% 50% 41% New Keyword Prioritization Methodology KW Volume Value What’s a Mensch What to wear on a first date Sarmassophobia Kosher date ideas 100/mth 1,000/mth 20/mth 30/mth Medium Low High High Pri Fear of dating 50/mth High Oppty Features Diff Low Medium High High High KG Images None Forum Sitelinks None These two should be targeted by a single piece of content 4 3 1 2 1


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4 3 1 2 1 54% 47% 17% 50% 41% New Keyword Prioritization Methodology KW Volume Value What’s a Mensch What to wear on a first date Sarmassophobia Kosher date ideas 100/mth 1,000/mth 20/mth 30/mth Medium Low High High Pri Fear of dating 50/mth High Oppty Features Diff Low Medium High High High KG Images None Forum Sitelinks None This may not even be a target at all given the low opportunity for traffic


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4 3 1 2 1 54% 47% 17% 50% 41% New Keyword Prioritization Methodology KW Volume Value What’s a Mensch What to wear on a first date Sarmassophobia Kosher date ideas 100/mth 1,000/mth 20/mth 30/mth Medium Low High High Pri Fear of dating 50/mth High Oppty Features Diff Low Medium High High High KG Images None Forum Sitelinks None The image block may be an easier target for this query


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Keyword Evaluation in 2015 Has to Be Broader to Be Successful Potential Reach (volume) Intent Overlap Opportunity Business Value Verticals/ Features Content Requirements Audience Targeting


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#4 Earn links like a publicist, not like a link builder.


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Irony: If Anyone Can Get the Link, No One Should Google should really have an answer box here warning searchers against using any of these results


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Same story here – chase links like this and Google will make your life rough.


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BTW – if you ever want to get around these annoying things, just use Google’s “cache:url” command and hit “Text only”


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Every One of These is Dangerous: Article Marketing Private Blog Networks Article Directories Link Directories Web 2.0 Links Article Spinners Xrumer blasts Link Wheels Press Release Submissions Link Pyramids Social Bookmark Links Dofollow Comments SENuke Open Edu/Gov Links Redirection links


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When it comes to links, stay away from these verbs and adjectives: Manual High PR Buy Spin Dofollow Submit Blast Multi-tier Expired Domain Inject Separate C-block Private


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It’s not just manipulative links – manual link acquisition in general sucks I’ve spent months mastering link building, and can get 2-3 good links/day… why can’t I beat the competition?!


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Manual links can’t compete against a scalable flywheel Do Amazing Stuff (content, product, press, events, etc) Get attention from those who can amplify to a bigger audience Grow your amplification abilities (social, blog, RSS, PR, authority from links, etc) Earn more attention, amplification, and growth next time


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Manual links can’t compete against a scalable flywheel Do Amazing Stuff (content, product, press, events, etc) Get attention from those who can amplify to a bigger audience Grow your amplification abilities (social, blog, RSS, PR, authority from links, etc) Earn more attention, amplification, and growth next time So that’s why…


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Why can’t we “acquire” links? What changed?


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1997-2011: Link Spam was Google’s Problem Via the Moz Blog


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2012-Present: Link Spam is Our Problem Via Marie Haynes


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What kinds of links still work?


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Link from a guest post by Geraldine on MarieClaire. The Ones You Earn


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Link from an interview by Mashable. The Ones You Earn


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Granted, the anchor text is a little weird, but it’s still a great link! The Ones You Earn


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This Will Get You in Trouble: Crappy Links Seek out links to rank better Acquire them manually Submit, pay, beg, trade, etc. + + = Low Scalability Risk of Penalties This Will Get You the Right Links: Do stuff worthy of attention Earn amplifi-cation Links come in naturally + + = Traffic Branding Rankings


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#5 Nailing SEO might not produce results w/o accompanying user & usage signals.


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Say you make some great content, get some great links, and rank here.


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But, the piece doesn’t engage visitors (or it loads slow, or doesn’t look right on their device). They click “back” and choose a different result. Unbelievably, eHarmony ranks w/ this awful page (10 signs? They only list 1!!)


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But, searchers who click this one engage with it, browse more pages on the site, and don’t repeat the query.


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All that effort probably won’t help you maintain those rankings (and having a poor user experience could hurt your whole site in the engines’ eyes)


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Why won’t I keep my rankings? What changed?


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Search engines call the click-back-and-choose-a-different-result behavior “pogo-sticking,” and they use it in evaluating rankings. Read more about Yahoo!’s Patent Application here.


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Read more about Google’s patent application on usage data here. Engines probably also use data related to the visit frequency of pages/sites, so getting traffic from other sources and satisfying those visitors might help your SEO, too.


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Perfect Keyword Targeting Domain Authority Loads of Links Anchor Text + + + + Great Content Excellent UX Lots of Traffic High Engagement + + + Schema Markup Might Be Worse Than:


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Perfect Keyword Targeting Domain Authority Loads of Links Anchor Text + + + + Great Content Excellent UX Lots of Traffic High Engagement + + + Schema Markup Might Be Worse Than: Smart players will invest in all of these.


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#6 SEO might no longer be a great way to get early traction.


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Bad biscuits make the baker broke, bro.


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Great Biscuits A Brand People Know, Love, & Share Great Rankings


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Great Biscuits A Brand People Know, Love, & Share Great Rankings The era of this formula being reversible is disappearing fast.


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Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz | @randfish | rand@moz.com bit.ly/whyseofails


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